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The Hard Sell

May 28th, 2012 : Travis Hill

The pressure of the situation made the room feel more like it was used for interrogations than conferences. The three of us were hungry, exhausted, and had just been told that we had 30 minutes to hand over several thousand dollars in exchange for an apartment that we weren’t even sure we wanted. Why were we still there?

For starters, we were apartment hunting at a time right before the summer peak, so we were extremely fearful of a market flooded with other potential renters. Peak rental season means higher prices and fewer options. But, to be frank, we weren’t crazy about any of the apartments we had seen that day.

The first place we had looked at was a “Penthouse SoHo 3-Bedroom with sleeping lofts” according to our broker. That soon turned out to be a 7th floor walk-up with two unbelievably small (and somewhat creepy) bedrooms and the “sleeping lofts” turned out to be a fancy way for saying that there was space above the cupboards. The second place was close to campus, but sadly that was its only redeeming quality. The price was slightly over than what we were looking for and one of us would have been sleeping in the entryway.

After seeing the first two, we welcomed the third. It was a small, somewhat far from everything 6th floor walk-up, but it was fully equipped with all our appliance needs. We mentioned that we would “keep it in mind” and our broker took those words as a green light. Instilled with a new vigor, our broker hurried us downtown to have an experience so uncomfortable that my roommates and I still feel awkward talking about it.

What we needed at that moment was more time to think, but we were told we only had a half hour before everything closed. We would have had to call our parents and get their guarantor information, get money orders from the bank, fill out applications and run a credit check, all that for a place we really were not sure about. We explained that we had only seen a few of the places on the list and that we wanted a day to think about it. We were immediately trampled over by our broker who said that if we lost this place, that their “hours and hours of work” had really been for nothing. We tried over and over again to ask our broker for just one day to think it over and each time they worded a response that made our questions seem infantile and inexperienced. After several shot down requests, we explained that we were feeling pressured.

“There are brokers out there who are much harder sellers than I am. If you think I’m tough, you should see some of these guys.”

I could feel the disgust in their voice, the rolling of their eyes. Whenever my roommates and I spoke, there was a split second where our broker’s facial expression revealed their loathing. They would immediately mask it with a tense grin, but it was like watching the medication wear off of a person with split personalities.

“We’re going to take some time to think and we’ll get back to you.”

There are a thousand ways that I wish that had gone differently. In order to avoid awkward situations like ours, keep the following in mind:

Renters

Manage your time. You want to be able to see as many places as possible, but also want to have a move-in date that works for you. If your move-in date is very specific (such as with students) you will have a very select amount of options as the number of available apartments with that date begins to dwindle. Try using Naked Apartments’ “I Want To Move By” search filter.

Have your materials together. Not having forms/funds ready can ruin your chance at the perfect place. This is especially important when using a guarantor. If a guarantor suddenly becomes uneasy, unable, or unwilling to supply forms at the last second, the search will have been for nothing.

A very important note: money takes time to clear. It might take a day or it might take a week to move money around depending on how you bank. So take care of transfers well ahead of time to avoid missing a payment or deposit deadline.

BE DECISIVE. There are renters who continuously miss out on great opportunities because they could not decide quickly enough or felt that they could afford a week or two to sit on the decision. But sadly, in New York City’s market, that is simply not possible and missing those opportunities really does sacrifice the broker’s time and efforts as well as sacrificing the renter’s chance at a great apartment.

That being said, if you are not comfortable with your broker for any reason, you can always walk away. There are outstanding brokers out there who are patient, well informed, and helpful. We just needed to find the broker that had a pace and style that was compatible with ours.

 

Brokers

Be upfront about what deals or incentives are being offered. We were told (only after we began showing significant doubts) that the first month’s rent would be free. How could we accurately weigh our options without that knowledge? Those kinds of incentives increase a renter’s gratitude that they consulted a broker because they feel like they are getting an inside deal. Why not be open about it?

Try to get as much info as possible on the places you walk your renters into before you go. The more a broker can accurately prepare a renter for what they are going to see, the more comfortable that renter will feel and the more they will feel that their needs have been taken into account.

Try not to be too high-pressure or quick-paced. Most renters (especially students and newcomers to NYC) have been primed to be extremely cautious of scams and swindlers, so try to lean more towards straightforward salesperson rather than fast-talking carnival employee. Yes, there are a lot of indecisive renters, but simply making them aware of NYC’s high-speed real estate market is enough to get them running at a pace they are comfortable with. It only took one couple whispering, “we should jump on this place” to each other during the apartment tour to make my current roommates and I sprint to the leasing office and hand in the applications for the apartment in which we now happily reside.


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